Grading the playoff teams
Each team had their share of ups-and-downs this season. From coaching changes, to traded players, to rotations broken by players nobody even thought they would have a chance in hell. Of course, with each season, there are its winners and its losers. This post-season has both.
Grading the playoff teams:
San Antonio Spurs; Grade: A+
What Gregg Popovich was able to do with this team this season was beyond unimaginable. After a 1st round exit in last year's playoffs, Tony Parker was sure this team had made it's final run. He believe this team had no possibility in getting over the hump. He was the same man leading this team to the #1 record in the league and in consideration for the MVP award. They managed to win and win consistently even after Manu Ginobili went down with injury. After 12 consecutive seasons win 50+ wins, at the start of the season, it seem impossible that streak would continue. Along with a shortened season, old age was also catching up to the Spurs. This season, they went 50-16. Shocking the basketball world by all means and now they are ready to make a deep playoff run.
Chicago Bulls; Grade: A+
Well, if I told you Derrick Rose would miss 1/3 of the season and the Bulls would still manage 50 wins in a 66 game season, you would say I was crazy. What this team was able to pull off as a team was spectacular. This is the way basketball should be played, as a complete team with great defensive effort. Although Derrick Rose went down again in the post-season, I still believe they'll be in the 2nd round and they'll give the Hawks/Celtics a great battle and take them to 6 games, even without their star. They've had guys like John Lucas and Jimmy Butler, no-names in the eyes of many, step up and play huge roles on one of the top teams in the league.
Oklahoma City Thunder; Grade: A
Didn't we all expect this? We all knew OKC was ready for the spot-light. Especially after watching how much Harden had improved in the off-season in all of those pick-up games. Going head-to-head with Kobe and nearly one-ing him up. OKC has a scary front-line that not only out-physicals you, but has the skill to shut you down. Ibaka, Perkins, and Collison have held down the fort while Durant, Westbrook, and Harden dropped buckets from all over the floor. Honestly, did we expect anything less from OKC?
Miami Heat; Grade: A
Miami wasn't in the spotlight this season. With OKC on the rise, the Knicks' struggles, the Bulls fighting without Rose, and the Spurs stealing the show, Miami was happy to stand in the background, getting healthy, and beating top level teams by huge deficits. They did their work in the off-season and worked together in order to make this team better. Now with Haslem and Miller healthy, an improved Chalmers, a bulked-up Chris Bosh, a new defensive stopper in Shane Battier, and those two other guys taking less threes and driving the lane more, this team is ready to challenge anybody for the Eastern Conference Championship and the NBA Championship as well. Who are those other two guys again?
Los Angeles Lakers; Grade: B+
No, they don't get an A- and that's not exactly a knock on them. Their defense this season was brutal, and I mean brutal on the other team. They used their length in a different way than Phil Jackson and still got the most out of Bynum. Kobe had a great scoring season although not as efficient as we would want. The reason I give them a lower grade is the fact that it took them so long to acquire Ramon Sessions. He's been available all season and it took them this long to get him? Aside from that, this team is definitely one I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the NBA Finals. Never underestimate Kobe.
Indiana Pacers; Grade: A-
What can I say about this team. Last season they were out in the first round and this season they're a 3-seed in the tough East. They went from a pretty good team to a very deep and skilled team in only one offseason. By acquiring David West, they filled their hole at PF and the improvement of Hibbert and George put this team over the top. They also added George Hill, Louis Amundson, and Leandro Barbosa, which I believe were very underrated acquisitions. Frank Vogul put this team together very well and now they can give the Heat all they can handle if they meet in the 2nd round. This is a very interesting team.
Memphis Grizzlies; Grade: A-
They played without their best player, Zach Randolph for a large portion of the season and even then, they made a move and picked up Mareese Speights, which ended up being a great move. Now they're healthy and ready to pick up where they left off last season. Lionel Hollins has done a terrific job with this team, keeping them in the playoff race even when injuries got to them. They stayed consistent throughout the season and I believe they probably have the most underrated defense in the league. With Z-Bo back, they have more offense to backup their defense.
Boston Celics; Grade: B
Of course, if I were grading them from the All-Star break to the end of the season, their grade would be higher but I'm not. For the entire season, this team only gets a B. They were breaking down on both ends of the floor at the beginning of the season and really struggled. They looked old, slow, and beat down by the schedule. After the break though, Doc Rivers decided to make a change. Putting KG at center has paid dividents and has put them at the top of their division. A team that seemingly would snag a 6 or 7 seed in the East made a huge jump and became a force. Now doubt about it, if they can get passed the Hawks, we can see them in the conference finals.
Los Angeles Clippers; Grade: INC
I give the Clippers an incomplete. Yes, Chris Paul helped this team and put them over the top but at the end of the day, they knew they would be in the playoffs after the acquisition. An injury to Chauncey made them take a step back but the acquisition of Nick Young softened the blow. Also, signing Kenyon Martin proved to be a great pick-up for them. Now, this team was supposed to challenge OKC for the #1 seed and was supposed to meet them in the conference finals. Hell, half of the basketball nation had them in The Finals after signing Chris Paul. The incomplete grade is given because we still don't know how far they'll go into the playoffs. That said, all of the signings, trades, rotation moves and the injury to their floor leader at the time (Billups) really hurt them and I think we've yet to see what the Clippers are capable of.
Atlanta Hawks; Grade: B-
The Hawks, as always, are in the middle of the playoffs. They're always a tough out but an out nonetheless. Larry Drew was able to put together a good season even without their starting center and all-star Al Horford. When you are able to play without one of your best players and are still able to be one of the better teams in the league, that truly shows how good your team is. Even when Cool Joe went down for some games, Josh Smith stepped in and played huge for them. All that said, they were still pretty inconsistent. They lost to bad teams while beating good teams and vice-versa. Here's a team that could demolish the Toronto Raptors one night and the next game get murdered by the Memphis Grizzlies. They're a team that would get beat down by the Suns yet turnaround the next game and get the upper-hand on the Indiana Pacers. Consistency is what makes you in the playoffs, and the Hawks don't have it.
Denver Nuggets; Grade: B
I really like what George Karl has done with this team. He's had injuries, different rotations, trades, free agent signings, you name it. He's still been able to keep the team afloat and moved them into the playoffs. At one point, it seemed as if Nene was the best player on the team, he was eventually traded. It seemed as if Gallinari was the best player on the team, he got injured, it seemed as if Arron Afflalo was the best, he toned it down, and now it's Ty Lawson. This team comes at you in waves and have so many good role players, it's impossible to beat them when they put it together. They can score tons of points on you, bring in their back-ups, continue to score tones of points, bring in their 11th and 12th man and continue to score. Do they have the defense to contend in the playoffs? Do they have a closer? This was a surprise team as nobody expected them to nab some 6th seed in a tough West. Some people didn't even expect them to make the playoffs.
Orlando Magic; Grade: C
I really have no idea what this team is doing. They love Dwight Howard, they hate Dwight Howard, they extend Dwight Howard, they love him again, they hate him and then he gets injured. This team completely blew it when it came to trading him and now with his draft stock at an all time-low, I doubt they're going to trade him this offseason. Not only that, if he doesn't come back 100%, they definitely won't get as much trade value as they would have this season. At the end of the day, this situation was managed terribly. They didn't make a decision and let it play out, their coach is a mess, their players seemingly quit during the regular season (not the post-season), and management has no idea what they're doing. Overall, I give them a C because of how lost they are. How are they moving forward? Will they rebuild? Will SVG be fired? Should Dwight be traded? Will Howard be 100%? There are too many questions and winning heals all wounds, they struggled doing that as well.
Dallas Mavericks; Grade: C+
I thought we'd expect more from the defending champions and yet the more I watched them during the regular season, I forgot they were defending champions, I saw them more as the Dallas Mavericks. The simple Dallas Mavericks. The team that gets oust in the first round of the playoffs year and year. They lack that toughness and that chip on their shoulder. Nowitzki started off the season terrible but eventually put it all together and improved his play. Although they played two very good games against the OKC Thunder, they missed shots that they made last season. Dirk and Terry, which were super-clutch last post-season seemingly missed every clean look they got in the closing minutes in the last two games against OKC. What's with Mark Cuban overpaying veterans out of their prime? Haywood got his payday, Vince Carter got a 10 million dollar, 3 year deal. They're still eating Shawn Marion's contract and Lamar Odom was a failed experiment. The only thing that can save this team from falling into rebuild mode in the next couple of years is Deron Williams.
New York Knicks; Grade: INC
I'm going to give the Knick an incomplete because we haven't seen this team all put together. At the beginning of the season, Jeremy Lin was a nobody. When he finally got minutes, Carmelo was out. Carmelo came in and Stoudemire was out. When Stoudemire, Carmelo, and Lin were in, D'Antoni was still coaching them. When Lin was out and Mike Woodson was in. Then Stoudemire and Lin were both out leaving Melo and Woodson. Now in the post-season, Lin is out and Stoudemire is out again. We have yet to see the Stoudemire-Carmelo-Lin-Woodson combination. I don't believe Stoudemire should be traded because we have yet to see what that could become. The offense of Anthony, the passing ability of Lin, the finishing ability of Stoudemire combined with the defense of Woodson, Chandler, and Shumpert could and should be deadly. Luckily for the Knicks, if they keep those 4 together and the help of training camp, they could still be a team that makes huge strides next season.
Utah Jazz; Grade: B+
I don't think anybody expected to Jazz to be in the playoffs at the beginning of the season. I don't think anybody expected the Jazz to be in the playoffs mid season. I don't think anybody expected the Jazz to be in the playoffs with 15 games left in the season. They were able to put together a great run, with the Blazers falling apart early and Houston losing almost every game possible late, the Jazz were able to snag the 8th spot. With their young core in Hayward, Burks, Kanter, and Favors they probably won't make it out of the 1st round but the fact that those young guys are in the playoffs and are getting experience this early in their career is great. The grade isn't exactly because of their success this season (although it was great) but because of the fact that this is a building block for the future and will definitely be a reason for their future success.
Philadelphia 76ers; Grade: C-
If there's a team that I can pin-point and say they are the weakest team in the playoffs right now, it has got to be the 76ers. They nearly stumbled out of the playoffs and allowed the Bucks a shot at snagging their 8th spot. The team ball that they had was great early in the season but seemingly fell apart the more they played together. They don't have a closer on the team, they don't have guys that necessarily want to win on that team and worst of all, they don't believe anymore. Early in the season, they believed the sky was the limit for them, now it seems as if that is gone and they just want to fight to get out of the first round against a Rose-less team. Although their defense is still pretty solid, their offense is very inconsistent. Usually when you see a team that can have 4 or 5 different leading scorers in any given game, you would think they must be pretty damn good. In this case, they can have 4 or 5 different leading scorers because of how inconsistent they are.
I'm sorry but the Grizzlies are getting 4 zero's averaged in for game 1 va lac. And to anyone who took LAC +6, LOL
I understand the grade you gave the Mavs, but I'd give their front office an A+. I know Deron Williams might not be the answer, but you can keep Marion, and go into next year with Deron, Delonte, Carter(still decent and solid), Marion, Dirk, and hopefully they'll pick up a half decent center. Their depth won't be great but they'll b a decent team, and for those who say Dirk is declining, he's beena averaging 24 ppg the past 3 months.
The thing is, hoping to sign Deron Williams is still a big "if". There are other teams that are going to have more money and more young players that might entice Deron Williams. If they don't get Deron Williams, they'll go into next season with a bunch of long-term and high paying contracts for old veterans.
^But that's a risk you have to take as a GM. Barea might've been worth the money he was getting, but if you look at teh role he would've played on the Mavs, than that's overpaying him. I'm happy for Tyson Chandler that he's healthy now and the soon-to-be DPOY, however his knees to me were and are a legit concern as far as giving him a big contract. And Caron Butler, well, they really couldn't afford 24 million on a guy off the bench coming off a major knee surgery, and I trust teh people Mark Cuban has down there, they'll figure somthing out, but I'm glad Dirk got him ring, because if this D-Will thing doesn't happen and they don't panic overpay Terry, than I don't see the Mavs as a contender anymore, and If I'm OKC I'm thinking that I'm lucky as hell to be going down to Dallas up 2-0 when they could've jut as easily been down 2-0. I know OKC is great, but don't count Dallas out just yet. I still have OKC in 6, but don't e surprised if Dirk goes ham again this year.